Lightning tears hole in yard

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Ulysses McCullough heard the tremendous crash from a lightning strike Sunday evening, but it wasn’t until Tuesday that he saw the trench it dug in his backyard.
“It shook the house,” McCullough said. “It felt like an earthquake hit. I knew lightning struck close, but I didn’t know it was this close.”
Later, he noticed that his air conditioning and phone line had stopped working and started to investigate.
Lightning apparently struck one of his trees at 285 Hope Hill Road in Salisbury, but it didn’t stop when it got to the ground. It tore up a narrow path in his backyard as it traveled through the tree’s roots toward a heating and air conditioning unit at the back of his house.
“My neighbor saw the flash,” McCullough said. “He said it made the hair on his arms stand up.”
He said the lightning damaged his neighbor’s computers, but not his own. McCullogh uses surge protectors, which are designed to protect electrical devices from spikes in voltage like those caused by lightning strikes.
A nearby propane tank sat untouched on the other side of the backyard. McCullough said he’s glad the lightning didn’t head for that instead.
He has contacted the telephone company and is now waiting for his phone line to be repaired.
Pete Iossi, of J. Newton Cohen Heating and Air Conditioning, came to McCullough’s house Tuesday to make the rest of the repairs. He said damage to outdoor condenser units like this is common during storms.
“The lightning was heading right for that unit, because I guess it’s the biggest source of metal around,” Iossi said. “It cooked that (circuit) board bad. It’s all burned looking on the inside, and parts blew off of it. The wires are cooked, too.”
The servicemen couldn’t fix the unit Tuesday, McCullough said, but they’re hoping to get the parts they need today.
Until then, the retiree’s home will remain without air conditioning.
“It’s not that bad, because it’s not that hot out there now,” he said. “I have all the windows open, and it’s pretty cool in there until the afternoon.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.